The Irish Hospital Consultants Association has said that one million people are on a waiting list to be seen at an acute hospital.

Speaking at the organisation's annual conference today, its president, Dr Donal O’Hanlon, said almost 570,000 people were waiting to be seen by a consultant.

Dr O’Hanlon said that the impact on patients waiting are that their condition may advance further, they may be suffering and in discomfort and their long-term outcome could be more positive.

He said that the exceptional waiting lists were unfair on patients, all of whom have paid for the service through their taxes.

Dr O’Hanlon said that the foundation of long waiting times were a shortage of hospital beds and a consultant recruitment and retention crisis.

He said that one in five permanent posts were infilled.

The association, which represents 3,100 consultants, also called on Minister for Health Simon Harris to honour a commitment to start talks this month on pay parity for newer consultants.

It expressed disappointment that the minister was unable to attend today’s conference in Dublin.

A spokesperson for Mr Harris said that waiting list figures are published transparently on a monthly basis and a range of measures are being taken to try to reduce waiting times for patients.

The minister said this has led to improvements in inpatient waiting lists particularly in high volume specialties but there is much more to be done, especially on outpatients.

On consultant pay parity, the minister said he is very eager to engage on the terms of the Public Service Pay Commission.

Mr Harris has said he would like such engagements to begin this month and that remains his position. The number of consultants working in the Irish health services is continuing to increase, he added.

Fianna Fáil health spokesperson Stephen Donnelly told the conference that what is seen in the health service here is not encountered in any other developed country.

He said there had been an extraordinary failure of management and political leadership.

He added that if Fianna Fáil gains power, the party will fully reverse pay inequality for new consultant entrants.

Sinn Féin health spokesperson Louise O'Reilly told the conference that successive health ministers have viewed the system as broken and that it cannot be fixed.

She said it was not about the money being spent but how it is spent.

Deputy O'Reilly said that the addition of one consultant can make a huge difference.

She said that there should be equal pay for equal work if equal value.

A spokesperson for Mr Harris  that waiting list figures are published transparently on a monthly basis and a range of measures are being taken to try to reduce waiting times for patients.The Minister said this has led to improvements in inpatient waiting lists particularly in high volume specialties but there is much more to be done, especially on outpatients.On consultant pay parity, the Minister said he is very eager to engage on the terms of the public service Pay Commission.The Minister has said  he would like such engagements to begin this month and that remains his position.He said that the number of consultantsworking in the Irish health services is continuing to increase.